Fifty Years Ago.
DEAR Sir,—Through the kindness of Miss Chandler, of Dorchester, we are furnished with early records of deeds recorded in the Registry Office, of marriages, &c. Here is one of the records : "In consideration of thirty pounds Abiel Richardson deeds to Benoni Danks in fee simple, thirty acres of marsh land lying on the road leading to the Missequash bridge, part of lot No. 21 recorded in Libre A. p. A. Dated Feby, 1764.” This deed might be found in the office of the Registrar, at Dorechester or Amherst. There are many notices, of deeds between this time and 1800, putting marsh even lower than this. This is likely to have been dyked marsh. The scarcity of money and the high value put upon in was one of the many difficulties the early English settlers had to contend with, and that difficulty, in a greater or less degree, was a drag upon the colonies until they happily hit upon confederation. This difficulty the New England colonies did not so much feel, as the richer emigrants from Europe continued to prefer the more genial climate further south.
I find in the book of records a list of jury-men, or freeholders, or voters, as one pleases to call them, returned from all the parishes IN Westmorland. They number 403. This was in 1807, eighty years ago. At that time Westmorland meant Westmorland and Albert. Taking off 157 as returned for what is now Albert, we have for Westmorland, as it now is, 246.
Fifty years ago, at the commencement of Her Majesty's reign, the voters of Westmorland numbered about 2,000, and by a list returned in 1886, there are a little over 6,000. Can any of the New England States make a better show? They cannot; but I hope in another letter to answer the question in detail from authority, if their universal suffrage does not render it impossible.
The book of records is mutilated, and it does not appear by whom the entries were made previous to 1790, but from that time until 1811 they are official and entered by Amos Botsford, Esq., Clerk of the Peace.
The entries of marriages for Westmorland and Albert from 1790 to 1811 are 95. At that time marriages were solemnized by Justice of the quorum, such authority was given to clergymen of different denomination at a much later date.
It would appear that William Law, of Westmorland, Charles Dixon, of Sackville, and Robert Scott, of Salisbury, were the only persons authorized to marry in the county until 1809, when William Sinton, of Salisbury, Jonathan Burnham, of Sackville, John Keillor, of Dorchester, and William Allen, of Westmorland Pariah, were appointed. In 1811, the entries in the book of records cease.
The office of Magistrate, or Justice, in those days was conferred only when necessity demanded, and men of respectability, intelligence, standing and integrity only were chosen.
Since the commencement of Her Majesty's reign, the increase in Justices of the Peace is wonderful. It is not known that Her Majesty is flattered by her host of representatives, or that our courts of record are materially increased in respectability or usefulness; but it is known that our halls of Justice are manifold. These facts are not mention as signs of advanced civilization, or as displaying any especial wisdom in our higher officials and statesmen. It is just mention it.
It is worthy of notice that in the list of freeholders above mentioned, not one French name is found, and that almost all the names are names well known in the county now.
About fifteen years ago, the writer of this letter interviewed a Frenchman named Comeau, 108 years old. He said: "I recollect well when young, coming with my father to Memramcook. My father's family when ordered away escaped to Madawaska. When times settled down, they quietly returned — did not know the time—found the place unoccupied and took possession. It was all in ruins, young trees growing up, the marshes flooded with water, dykes all gone; although the ditches were plain to be seen, and in some places the furrows of the plough could he traced."
There is little doubt but a considerable number of the Acadian French had returned to the Petitcodiac and Memramcook riven and to the shores of Shediac previous to 1807. Their want of English would account for their names not being on the juror's list; or it may be they were not recognized as British subjects until a later period.
The long homeless and unsettled lives of the Acadian had left education out of the question. As late as the commencement of Her Majesty's reign, there were little or no schools among them, but in the fifty years of her reign, their progress in New Brunswick has been greater than that of their English fellow-subjects. Their schools, and college at Memramcook, are, perhaps, not exceeded by any in the Maritime Provinces; the loyalty of the priests and their people is proverbial; they participate in all offices of emolument and distinction, they enjoy the protection of the laws and constitution, and their loyalty and social merits entitle them to it.
For the Acadians, coming as they did, about the beginning of the century, without money or scrip, or one to bid them welcome, to have attained to rank among the first of the land, speaks in high praise of their merits.
Aug. 1887. XX.